I didn't grow up as an occasionally fanatical, usually obsessive, and always passionate sports nut with the belief that any time is a great time to share his newest hot sports opinion.
For those that have not yet met me, I am fairly confident that those who have would vouch that the preceding description matches me pretty perfectly today.
So what happened? Why the change?
In short, video games.
Yes, I am the guy whose life was forever altered (or at least so far) by the exposure to, and partaking of, video games. But not in the negative way that so many people have come to associate with the "evils" of electronic entertainment.
I never went on a shooting spree because Grand Theft Auto told me to.
I also never locked myself in my friends' basement for days on end playing World of Warcraft and living off of Doritos.
I will admit that I was recently a tad obsessed with Call of Duty 4, an obsession that led me to spend a bit too much time huddled up in front of my TV talking smack into my bluetooth headset to a pre-teen punk with the mouth of a sailor.
Please don't fret, however. The addiction has passed, and the pigment is returning to my skin quite nicely (oh, and I am pretty sure the pre-teen was grounded for foul language).
No, I am convinced that video games have actually changed my life in a positive way, because they have brought me a love that I had never previously had: sports, and more specifically, football.
Sure, I played sports as a kid, but I never played football. This was partly because I was a mama's boy that didn't want my my mom to worry about me getting hurt, but it was mostly because I just didn't want to get hurt myself.
So I played baseball and soccer, and I played them both poorly. I tried really hard and never quit, and that earned me one year on a select soccer team. But after that, one truth became all too evident:
God gave me many gifts and talents, none of which were "athletic prowess."
So as I entered into middle school and started the next phase of my life, my athletic "career" came to an end, and my interest in sports was all but extinguished.
This all changed when I started playing Madden Football with my stepfather. It was his attempt to share his favorite pastime with me and, as for me...well, I liked video games (doesn't every kid?).
So we played at least a handful of games a week, oftentimes more. We both had our strengths. I was a better button masher and he actually knew what the plays that he called meant. So he won the majority of the time, and I'd occasionally pull off the win thanks to a lucky play here and there.
However, when I packed my bags and headed to college, I was still not a football fan. I was simply a football video game fan, and I think I finally know why.
Football, like many things, is something that you cannot fully love and appreciate until you actually understand it. (This same logic probably also applies to women, which would help to explain why I am always single, but that is another conversation.)
Looking back, I finally understand why he could run the same defensive play every stinkin' down and would always stop me, yet when I ran the exact same play, it never worked!
He could double my wideouts every play because, well, I only threw to my wideouts. When I doubled his, his slot receiver would burn my linebacker every time.
When I got to college, where Madden and NCAA tourneys were a normal occurrence, I had no choice but to learn the ins and outs of the game, and learn them quickly. It is one thing to get your butt whooped in the privacy of your own home, but it is quite another to be the cellar-dweller of your dorm hall's Madden dynasties.
The competitor in me was not going to sit back and get my butt kicked.
So I played, and I played a lot. I learned that the best way to beat the blitz is with a short dump-off pass to the flats, that slant routes can almost always beat man coverage, and that it isn't smart to go for it on 4th-and-26 from your own 14 yard-line.
Finally, when I went to Baylor football games, I understood what I was watching, and was finally able to understand the brilliance of the game (despite the fact that my team was almost always beaten by halftime.)
It isn't just a game about throwing, catching, and running. It is a game about time management, field position, execution, and teamwork.
I came to understand the game, and I subsequently fell in love with it.
So to say that video games have "changed my life" might be a bit dramatic, but it is also pretty accurate.
I now have a favorite pastime that I love to read, write, and talk about, and I have Madden to thank for it (with perhaps a little bit of credit to my stepfather, as well.)
Now if only they could come up with a video game about politics...